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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • MMPZ responds to ZEC’s media assessment
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    July 29, 2013

    In a heavily editorialised story on the media’s political coverage, The Sunday Mail quoted Zimbabwe Electoral Commissioner, Sibongile Ndlovu, claiming political parties had enjoyed fair coverage in both the public and private media while briefing SADC observers and representatives of political parties in Harare on Friday.

    Responding to a question about the bias of the national public broadcaster, ZBC, in favour of Zanu-PF, Ndlovu was reported saying, “The party (the MDC-T) failed to provide its programme schedules in line with standing regulations.”

    In an unconnected comment in the same news story, the paper claimed, “The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) has also been unashamedly accusing the public media of bias while praising private newspapers”.

    MMPZ notes the observations of Commissioner Ndlovu with grave concern. Under no circumstances can the coverage of ZBC’s television broadcasts (or the bulletins of its radio station, Spot FM) be considered to be “fair”, “factually accurate” or “complete” as required in the electoral regulations. Nor can the “extent”, “timing” and “prominence” of ZTV’s coverage of the campaign activities of the contesting political parties in its news programmes be considered to be “equitable”, as stated by the electoral regulations [section 160J (a-b)] governing the conduct of the media during an election.

    Commissioner Ndlovu tacitly admitted this when she was reported in The Sunday Mail saying, “…the problem which has arisen is that some parties have not been abiding by regulations which require them to submit their lists of programmes to all media organizations….

    It therefore becomes difficult for the broadcaster to know where these parties will be conducting their rallies so that they can be covered. That is why it ends up as if Zanu-PF is the only party getting coverage from ZBC.”

    First of all, MMPZ is unaware of any regulations in the electoral law that requires all political parties to submit a list of their programmes to all media.

    But notwithstanding this “excuse”, it is common cause that ZBC’s bias favouring Zanu-PF and its presidential candidate is so extreme that it clearly falls into the category of propaganda. This has been so for years and, as in previous “election periods”, has intensified during this election campaign.

    Even when footage of MDC-T rallies is shown on ZTV, they are never covered live, as they have done for Zanu-PF’s star rallies. And their news reports are clearly incomplete, distorted by editorial intrusions and denied equitable treatment, which imposes the standard that however, ZBC treats one party, it must treat the others similarly.

    This is self-evidently not the case, as MMPZ’s current daily reports reveal, even at a statistical level.

    But of course, ZBC serves as Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster and should live up to its public service mandate to provide fair, accurate and equitable coverage of all shades of political opinion in Zimbabwe. It has manifestly failed to do this, and to submit the pretence that it has been unable to provide equitable coverage of the other political parties that comprised the coalition government because they have not submitted their “lists of programmes”, is to deny ZBC’s obligations as a news institution.

    Indeed in its current manifestation it is not. It is clearly a propaganda arm for promoting Zanu-PF.

    MMPZ unreservedly condemns this grossly unprofessional conduct by the national broadcaster, not just because it violates all the local, regional and continental standards and protocols of a broadcasting station mandated to serve the nation’s information needs, but because it is precisely this kind of extreme bias that has created such a polarized media environment.

    Indeed, it is the gagging of all alternative opinion, as practised by ZBC and its state-owned sister media organizations that has contributed so much towards creating an environment of intolerance and bigotry in Zimbabwe’s political arena as well.

    It is precisely for these reasons that MMPZ and its colleagues in civil society have been calling for the urgent reform of these state-owned media institutions and especially the national broadcaster, as part of wider media reforms that allow other players to compete in the broadcasting sector that will provide the diversity of opinion and views that democracy needs to survive.

    Until Zimbabweans are freed from the tyranny of thought imposed by the national public broadcaster, we cannot claim that the media environment is conducive to the holding of a credible election.

    For statistical evidence of ZBC’s coverage of political party campaigns, please feel free to contact us or view MMPZ’s daily reports on the media’s coverage of the election process on our website.

    Visit the MMPZ fact sheet

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